December 01, 2019

Chronic constipation

Next steps for relief

From steps you can take at home to specialized steps your doctor may recommended, there are many ways to find constipation relief. Bowel movement retraining and newer drugs are options for particularly persistent constipation.

Chronic constipation

You've tried to do the right things — drinking plenty of water, mixing fiber supplements into your morning orange juice, walking every day — yet you still consistently have constipation.

Ongoing (chronic) constipation is frustrating, especially if you feel like nothing is working. Constipation is a common problem among older adults — and it's not unusual for people to be dissatisfied with the recommended medications meant to help them.

Chronic constipation can bring discomfort, bloating and straining — and sometimes bothersome or even painful problems such as hemorrhoids.

But if nothing seems to help your constipation, what else can you do?

When it's chronic

Constipation means that it's difficult to pass stool or you don't pass stool very often — generally having fewer than three bowel movements a week. People dealing with constipation may have lumpy or hard stools, strain to have bowel movements, or feel like stool remains in their system after a bowel movement. If you've experienced these signs and symptoms over the last three months and they have been present for at least six months, you likely have chronic constipation.

Contributing causes of constipation may include:

  • Side effects of medications such as opioids or iron supplements
  • A medical condition such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Parkinson's disease or lupus
  • A diet that's low in fiber and fluids
  • A sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise, as physical activity helps your bowel muscles move stool
  • ...